Thursday, June 8, 2017

The City of Lake Worth’s Planning and Zoning Board meeting last night (6/7): “Meritage Homes Lake Cove Residential Development”.

After a self-imposed delay of a month, Meritage Homes was back before the Planning and Zoning Board with their request for a “Residential Planned Development District” recommendation and the site plan approval. This was for a 59-unit, single-family detached subdivision.

The delay allowed the developer to address some important aspects of the project in relation to the neighbors and the City. The site consists of ±12.85 acres and is located north of 19th Ave. North, south of the Vernon Heights subdivision and east of I-95. It is roughly shaped in a triangle as shown below on the site plan.

Although The Palm Beach Post has yet to report this news, hopefully this will spur the editor to praise a developer’s work creating more housing and not contributing to Urban Sprawl in our County.

The project is notable in that it is one of the few “raw land” development opportunities — particularly for residential units — east of I-95 that are detached units and not in a townhouse configuration. If you do the math, the density is still under the maximum of 7 units/acre for the City’s single family zoning at just under 4.6 units/acre.

However, due to the odd shape of the site and responding to current market trends, certain concessions on lot size and width were needed. Those are shown below and are allowed through the Planned Development District.

The biggest issue surrounding the project was access and traffic. It was apparent from neighbors in Vernon Heights that attended the meeting last night that efforts were made on the part of the developer to address their concerns. It was also clear nearby residents wanted to be at the table going forward when traffic calming is addressed in a holistic way. An overall study is being done now and some ideas are speed bumps or traffic tables to mitigate speed and flow of traffic.

A key component of the plan was the addition of an access point from 19th Ave. North. According to the traffic engineer approximately 70% of the traffic will come through that access and not through the Vernon Heights neighborhood.

The access points are highlighted on this graphic from the PowerPoint presentation.
It should be noted the existing Vernon Heights subdivision has excessively wide roads that were part of its original plan when developed. Wide roads encourage higher traffic speeds.

The wide roads in the Vernon Heights neighborhood have encouraged speeding that narrower roads would have helped to prevent. For some perspective:

Paved areas in Vernon Heights are about equal to the four lane pavement area found on Dixie Hwy. and parts of I-95.

In addition, construction traffic will be almost 100% through the 19th Ave. access point during the two–three year anticipated build-out of the project. One surprise revelation was the existing homes on the north side of 19th Ave. North are one of the few areas within the City of Lake Worth that are still on septic tanks and not served by sewer.

Of course, this new development will have sewer service and the City will be putting in new sewers when it improves the 19th Ave. North right-of-way as part of the Neighborhood Road Improvement Program, funded by the bond issue approved last year.

The crowd was larger than usual for a Planning and Zoning meeting as you can see below:

I arrived late for the meeting. The parking lot was full. A rare sight for a P&Z meeting.

The Planning and Zoning Board approved the site plan unanimously and recommended the rezoning request be approved by the City Commission. These approvals were made with conditions which addressed many of the issues which had been discussed between the developer, the City and the neighborhood beforehand. This will now appear on first reading at the July 18th City Commission meeting.

There were some items related to specific locations and the amount of traffic calming. That will be worked on between now and the Commission meeting with all the parties involved.

From my point of view:

It was good to see a unanimous decision on both requests that will increase and improve the residential choices one has east of I-95 in Palm Beach County. Market prices are expected to be in the mid-$300K range.

This project will have many benefits for the City of Lake Worth and for places like Dixie Hwy. as well: both north and south of the C-51 Canal. Hopefully our City leaders will not succumb to the trouble-making that is certain to come prior to July 18th. Leadership is in order. Anything less than a unanimous City Commission vote will be a huge disappointment.